PRESS RELEASE BY THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIAT FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITY AND ACTIVE AGEING Malta hosts 26 EU-Arab countries to sign first political declaration for more regional co-operation for rights of persons with disability

The Parliamentary Secretariat for Persons with Disability and Active Ageing organised the first ever EU-Arab High-Level Meeting for Disability Rights.

Through this high-level meeting, 26 European and Arab countries signed a political declaration for further regional co-operation for the rights of persons with disability. Through this declaration, these countries re-affirmed their commitment to abide by the principle of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Sustainability Development Goals. 

The last session for this high-level meeting was organised at the House of Representatives, with the participation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion, Carmelo Abela, Minister for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity, Michael Falzon, the Parliamentary Secretary for Persons with Disability and Active Ageing, Anthony Agius Decelis, as well as representatives from the Opposition. 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat stated that Malta has its own story to tell as the smallest Member State of the European Union. Malta’s legacy is a proud one, and there’s rarely a philosophical debate in the House of Parliament that concerns social justice. “We’re proud that different administrations have contributed to reach the levels that we have today,” noted Muscat.
Prime Minister Muscat stated that the current administration has made sure to put at the top of its agenda, the participation of persons with disabilities in the labour market. This is now being put into practice where companies must employ people with disabilities. Those who opt not to, would have to pay a contribution to a national fund that is there to train, provide mentors, and to provide jobs for persons with disabilities. This policy shift has led to the single biggest increase in occupation for persons with disabilities in the history of our country.
“We need to be more ambitious, and I am thrilled to see an unprecedented number of candidates with disabilities who are coming forward in order to give their service to their community, not asking something for their community, but asking to be given confidence of electors to lead their communities. I find that to be a fantastic point of departure for us,” concluded Prime Minister Muscat.

During his address, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Carmelo Abela stated that, “The importance of the relationship between the EU and the Arab World cannot be underestimated and it is gatherings like this that further strengthen European-Arab ties, with the overall objective of bringing peace, stability, and sustainable growth in our region.”

He continued by saying that the promotion and protection of human rights is at the heart of multilateralism; a central pillar of the UN system and a core.  Since its adoption in December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has seen the dignity of millions uplifted, untold human suffering prevented, and the foundations for a more just world laid down.  

“Our participation at this meeting gives a truly tangible character to the EU-Arab cooperation framework; one that touches directly into the lives of many of our citizens.  This augurs well for future EU-Arab relations.”

Minister Michael Falzon claimed that this government strongly believes in social inclusion. He referred to a number of initiatives undertaken, such as an investment of approximately €4 million in 12 community homes to encourage independent living and the establishment of social regulatory standards for residential and respite services for persons with disabilities. 

Minister for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity stated that, “these standards are built on principles seeking to protect the rights of persons with disability. These standards will help provide peace of mind to families”.

In the concluding remarks, Parliamentary Secretary for Persons with Disability and Active Ageing, Anthony Agius Decelis, said that as governments we need to lead by example through the provision of accessible services, promotion of inclusive policies, allocation of funds and development of new initiatives. 

“We need to work across sectors by understanding their needs, the challenges that they are facing to adopt inclusive practices, and ultimately come up with effective solutions,” stated the Parliamentary Secretary. 

He said that as a country we should be proud that we have initiated the dialogue between European and Arab delegations through the first ever EU-Arab High-Level Meeting for Disability Rights. He encouraged all participating countries to continue working together for the benefit of persons with disabilities in our respective countries.